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Russia’s commercial departures creep up as war drags on

The number of vessels heading to international ports from Russia is growing each month. Sanctions and self-sanctioning are failing to wipe out the country’s seaborne trade

Outbound sailings of bulk carriers and general cargo ships from Russia are approaching the levels seen before the situation in Ukraine unfolded, but containership activity is failing to recover

OUTBOUND sailings of commercial vessels from Russia to foreign ports are approaching levels recorded prior to the incursion into Ukraine.

This comes despite a raft of sanctions designed to pressure the Kremlin in response to the conflict, and the numerous shipping entities and stakeholders that have since moved to reduce trading ties with the Russian Federation. 

Departures of bulk carriers, general cargo ships, tankers and containerships dropped 22% in the immediate aftermath of the incursion, according to vessel tracking data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence.

Total sailings from Russia to foreign ports was 2,020 in March, compared with 2,230 in February.

Western nations have piled sanctions on Russia since the start of the military operation in February while businesses have distanced themselves from the country in line with government sentiment. All of this has had a limited impact on seaborne trade so far.

The number of vessels departing Russian ports is slowly creeping up, although the figure is still about 15% lower than the year before.



Bulk carrier trades have been the least affected because this has largely not been subject to restrictions.

In March, there were 402 departures of bulker carriers, down from 417 in February. There were 462 outbound sailings in May, which is 7% less than a year earlier.

Given Russia is an important source of wheat and fertiliser, sanction measures have been carefully worded to enable the flow of agricultural trade.

The situation for bulk commodities will be changing soon, though. The European Union’s ban on Russian coal takes effect on August 10.

Japan, one of the top buyers of Russian coal behind the EU and China, is also looking to gradually reduce its imports of this commodity.

Meanwhile, China and India have been increasing their imports of coal to take advantage of cheaper prices.

Departures of bulk carriers and general cargo ships are increasing month-on-month and are above January levels.

Containerised trade has been the most affected by consequences of the situation in Ukraine.

Major container line operators and third-party feeder operators started to reduce or phase out services relating to Russia’s container ports in the first weeks after the invasion.



CMA CGM, Maersk and MSC ended their services for Russian destinations.

The port of St Petersburg is less busy as a result. In May, total outbound departures from the city to foreign ports were down 35% on January levels and 43% lower than 2021 volumes.

Global Ports, a leading container terminal operator in Russia, says there has been a significant reduction of vessel calls of key shipping lines, leading to a steep decline in throughput at the company’s terminals in the second quarter.

The company expects the outlook in the Baltic basin for the remainder of the year to be well below 2021.



Vladivostok, a major container port in Russia’s far east, has seen a less dramatic fall in containership sailings. A jump in general cargo ship departures means the port is slightly busier than last year.

Many of Russia’s ports are handling fewer internationally destined vessels since the military operation took effect and are underperforming when compared with a year earlier.

But there are some, mainly in the Far East and Black Sea, which are seeing higher volumes of vessels passing through.

Kavkaz, located in the Kerch Strait, recorded 42 departures in May, up from 31 last year.

Novorossiysk, another Black Sea port hub for oil and dry bulk, saw 404 outbound sailings in May compared with 324 in 2021.


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